Watching The Place Beyond the Pines, a drama directed by Derek Cianfrance to a screenplay by Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, and Darius Marder, reminded me of the movie line: "It's a bird, no, it's a plane, no, it's superman." Ultimately one comes out of the film confused regarding what was this all about. This exhaustingly long epic (140 min), has three quite distinguished parts, which leave you wondering who was the main hero and what was the single theme running throughout the intertwined storyline. The first part introduces Luke Glanton, wonderfully played by Ryan Gosling, and his bleak and hopeless world, leading him to commit crimes. The second part takes us to a seemingly inverted aspect of the first world, the realm of Avery Cross (also wonderfully played by Bradley Cooper.) Cooper plays a policeman facing the ramifications of his actions, while being somewhat shadowed by a strong fatherly figure and needing to weigh in on inner-police corruption. The third part tries to tie it all together. It introduces the second generation of parts one and two's central figures. While you find yourself pondering the message of the first part - fatherhood, responsibility, choices and ramifications related to crime and punishment, the second part of the film turns the theme into a question of karma in the wider sense of the word, including morality. Both parts include the repeated theme of choices and ramifications. The last part is all over the place. While it may make sense to the writers, as the third part lingers on, and on, and then some, my brain stopped pondering messages and themes, and just wishes for it all to end. If the film's big message is "like father like son," it takes a hell of a lot of footage to drive this questionable point home.
All in all The Place Beyond the Pines is highly uneven; it enjoys some superbly powerful moments and engaging pieces of acting, but the parts in between, as well as the inconsistent theme, make this film mediocre.